Finally a glimmer of hope: Oregon is about to become the first state to decriminalize hard drugs. While this may seem shocking and counterintuitive, in reality, it’s anything but. If the state of Oregon goes through with the bill and decriminalizes hard drugs, it could prove to be a step in the right direction. It may even set precedence for the rest of the country.
Oregon House Bill 2355
On July 6th, 2017, the Oregon State Senate passed House Bill 2355. The bill is a call for small amounts of hard drugs to be decriminalized. While Oregon is highly enthusiastic about cannabis legalization for recreational and medicinal use, hard drugs, like cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine, is another matter entirely. Even though most people would agree that weed is basically harmless, hard drugs are…well, hard drugs.
House Bill 2355 might seem strange considering the opioid epidemic in our country. And at first glance, it is. But consider this: in 2001, Portugal made history by decriminalizing all drugs. Instead of criminal penalties, those found in possession of drugs got health interventions and incurred civil penalties.
The result: drug overdoses decreased. The number of heroin addicts decreased with most choosing rehabilitation to get clean. The number of deaths due to drugs diminished into practically nothing.
Keeping drug addicts out of jail isn’t the only goal of the bill. It addresses racial profiling and, if passed, will prevent the deportation of non-US citizens due to a drug charge.
Obviously, not everyone voted in favor of the bill. State Senator Betsy Johnson, for example, voted against it. She called the bill “disingenuous” and expressed concern that it would make the use of hard drugs acceptable. Such acceptance would kill more people struggling with addiction.
Final Hit: Oregon Is About To Become The First State To Decriminalize Hard Drugs
Now that the bill was cleared in both the House and the Senate, it will go to Governor Kate Brown, who is expected to sign the bill into law. One possible factor that could prevent Governor Brown from doing so is the fact that it could put the state of Oregon at odds with the Trump administration. Trump’s “tough on crime” stance extends to drug use. More to the point, his right-hand man Jeff Sessions is pathologically determined to go back to the days of harsher drug policies. Regardless of current data, studies, research, or logic.
If it’s true that Oregon is about to become the first state to decriminalize hard drugs, then good. Using Portugal’s model, it could mean that the state could see a marked improvement in public health.
If Governor Brown does not sign the bill into law, then policy makers will simply have to find another way to fight for their state in the face of the opioid crisis.